Panthers add "playmaker"

After the season, coach John Fox said he'd like the team to add a couple of playmakers on offense to take the pressure off Steve Smith. Well, mission accomplished.

The Panthers, who struggled in the passing game when Jake Delhomme went down in Week 3, added free agent D.J. Hackett to go along with Muhsin Muhammad, who they signed earlier this offseason. That gives them three legit wide receivers, along with last year's second-round pick Dwayne Jarrett and fourth-round pick Ryne Robinson.

The Panthers agreed to terms on a two-year, $3.5 million contract, according to Hackett's agent Kevin Robinson. Given that Hackett was one of the top receivers on the free agent market this year, he has to be considered a bargain at $1.75 million per year.

So exactly where does Hackett fit?

Robinson said the Panthers told Hackett he would be the team's No. 2 receiver, starting opposite Smith. The team is a little reluctant to admit that because they don't want to crush Jarrett emotionally, especially after he was just arrested for DUI.

When healthy, Hackett has been a productive player for the Seahawks.

Hackett's best season came in 2006 when he caught 45 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns.

He appeared on the verge of becoming a breakout receiver, but suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2007 season opener and missed 10 games. He still managed to catch 32 passes for 384 yards with three touchdowns. He had six grabs for 101 yards and a touchdown in Seattle's first-round playoff win over Washington.

The Panthers outbid Tampa Bay, Washington and Seattle for Hackett's services.

At 6-feet-2 and 208 pounds, Hackett is considered a good possession receiver with sneaky speed. Despite the Seahawks' reputation for producing receivers with bad hands, Hackett excels in that area with only one drop in the past two seasons.

The knock against him is he's injury prone given that he has missed 28 games during his four years in the NFL. However, 16 of those came when he was rookie.

Robinson claims the Seahawks stashed him away on the roster.

"He wasn't hurt," Robinson said. "But they needed the roster spot so they stashed him on IR. That's the funny thing, now there's a perception he's injury prone."

Still, Hackett has missed 13 games over the last three seasons, almost all of those related to ankle issues.

Overall, this is a move that could really provide a boost to the Panthers passing game, forcing teams to focus on more than just Smith. In turn, that should also help out a running game that struggled most of last season as opposing teams often used eight men in the box on defense.

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